With Christmas approaching fast, for many of us it will mean some family get-togethers are on the horizon. Particularly after the last couple of years you might be really looking forward to the Christmas gatherings and a good catch-up, but maybe you are also slightly dreading all the awkward questions about your teen’s future plans. Or they might not be looking forward to Uncle Bob’s interrogation and unsolicited advice.
I remember having conversations with extended family members that left me feeling quite depressed, as their views were so different from my own and it really upset me. Although luckily it didn’t make me change any of my plans.
So here are a few tips to help you and your kids navigate those awkward “future plan” questions and still have everyone talking to each other in the New Year.
Top tips to navigate awkward conversations
1. If you or your teens don’t want to have that conversation with someone, it’s ok to try and avoid it.
Think about some answers ahead of time that you can use, so you are not put on the spot when you get awkward questions. It could be as simple as “We have decided to take a complete break from all the future planning over the holidays so they can get back to school/college refreshed in January. But tell me about your new job/house/holiday plans/ last holiday/ insert their favourite topic here.” Worst case scenario, pretend you smell burning, or if they look like they need it, rescue your teen by insisting you urgently need their help.
2. Be prepared to disagree.
You might completely disagree with your relatives. That’s ok. We all have different points of view, fears, and preferences. Particularly older relatives have effectively experienced a very different education system and world of work than our teens have now. For some people, even the idea of trying to find a career that we enjoy seems quite odd or indulgent because that just never felt like an option to them.
3. When you can’t avoid it…
listen to the unsolicited advice politely and try to stick to noncommittal answers along the line of “thanks for that, we will keep this in mind as we talk about the next step.” You know your relatives best. With some, you might be able to have a really interesting discussion and asking why they think something might actually be really useful. And they might be able to learn new things about the current options from you and your teen and might even adjust their ideas. The classic “I wish this was available when I was younger” comes to mind. And it might even be a nice opportunity to actually learn about their education and career journey, which could also move the focus away from your teen.
4. Remember it all comes from love.
Ok, in most cases at least. But I hope you get to spend your Christmas with the family members who genuinely care about you and your kids. Usually, unhelpful or pushy advice simply comes from the desire to help and give our kids a better and easier life. And depending on their life experience and what they consider “normal”, this might not always fit your and your teen’s views or indeed the realities of your experiences. But it can help to remember that they genuinely mean well, while you sip your wine and smile and nod…
So, now you have some tools to use if there are some family members that won’t take the hint when you are not keen on a particular topic.
But, be ready to be surprised…
Keep in mind, with some people you and your teen might be able to have some really good conversations, rather than awkward questions, and get some different insights or a new point of view. Or maybe a great connection for work experience or a part-time job. So be prepared for some awkward chats, but don’t expect the worse. They might surprise you. It’s Christmas after all.
If you would like more tips and free training around your teen’s future options and get the New Year off to a great start, come and join my free Facebook group for parents here.
And if after all those Christmas conversations you would like your teen to be able to talk through their ideas and questions with a qualified careers adviser, you can find out about the individual guidance meetings I offer here.